How to fix sticky clarinet keys

You can fix such keys by oiling them, getting rid of any sticky residue, or replacing the spring with the help of a technician. Here is more!

If you have been playing the clarinet, you have probably dealt with some issues from time to time. One of the problems that some instrumentalists report is sticky clarinet keys. When this happens, it can make the clarinet hard to rely on. Identifying the cause is the first step to solving the problem. Read on to learn the causes of this problem and how to fix sticky keys.

What causes clarinet keys to stick?


The build-up of dirt on a clarinet can affect its playability since it can slow down the key response. This mostly affects the keys mounted on rod screws. When using the clarinet, leftovers inside the hinge tube can also lead to sticky clarinet keys. You may also notice gunge on the pads. The good thing about this problem is that it is easy to solve on your own at home without involving an expert.

Wrong fit

Apart from dirt, clarinet keys can also stick when they are not fitted correctly. For instance, when the hinge is too long for the distance between the posts, it can make the keys stick. Weather can also affect clarinet keys.

Keys may fit too accurately for a precise location. They may bind during certain weather conditions. You may notice that when the weather is too cold, the clarinet’s body tends to shrink more than the hinge. Humidity can also lead to things getting inside hinge tubes.

When this happens, it can lead to rusting of rod screws leading to the sticking of clarinet keys.

A key can also get sticky when some parts are misaligned or bent. For instance, if a rod screw or hinge is bent or misaligned, it could lead to a sticky clarinet key.

Loose post or spring

This is also another possible cause of sticky clarinet keys. When a post featuring a spring slightly tilts, it can make the key sticky. When the spring comes loose or is not in place, it can also lead to sticky clarinet keys.

How to fix sticky keys

Remove dirt

We mentioned that dirt could cause sticky clarinet keys. If you inspect the keys and notice gunge on the pads, you can clean this using a dollar bill or cigarette paper. You may also notice a sticky noise every time you press down on the specific key.

Start by placing the dollar or cigarette paper under the pad and push down to ensure you close it firmly. Once you do this, give it some time to absorb the gunge. Pull out the dollar and inspect if there is no more dirt. It should also stop producing the annoying sticky sound.

Alternatively, you can also get rid of gunge from the underside of the pad using cleaning paper and Yamaha powder paper. If you notice gunge on the keywork that is making it stick, you can fix this by cleaning using dish soap. Start by taking the keywork apart so that you can clean the problematic areas properly.


This is the simplest method to fix sticky clarinet keys. Oiling the keys can mask binding keys on the clarinet. Feel free to oil the key joint attached to the pillar. Though this may help, you should understand that it is a temporary solution. Clarinet keys should not stick even without oiling them.

Inspect the spring and consider replacing it

We mention that a loose spring can lead to sticky clarinet keys. That is why it is crucial to inspect the spring closely. If you do this and notice that it has lost resistance, you should consider replacing it. This is because the spring may not pop as fast as expected.

Take it to a repair shop

Sometimes fixing sticky clarinet keys is challenging without the help of an expert. For instance, if the keys are sticky due to parts being misaligned or bent, you may not be able to fix this on your own. It is advisable to take such a clarinet to a repair shop with competent technicians who can help you solve the problem.

Here is a summary of the causes and solutions to sticky clarinet keys

What causes sticky clarinet keys? How to fix sticky clarinet keys
The build-up of residue on keys mounted on rod screws, leftovers inside the hinge tube, or gunge on the pads Use a dollar bill to clean any gunge on pads. Alternatively, use Yamaha powder paper to get rid of any sticky residues.
The keys are not fitted correctly You can take such a clarinet to a repair shop for the technicians to look at them.
Some parts may be bent or misaligned, such as the rod screw Seek professional advice
Loose spring If the spring has lost resistance, consider replacing it


Sticky clarinet keys can negatively affect the instrument’s playability. If you have been experiencing this problem, you should try to find out why it happens so that you can figure out what to do. Things such as humidity, dirt, loose spring, and misalignment of some parts could be causing this. If you notice that you cannot fix the problem on your own, it is always advisable to work with a technician with experience in fixing such musical instruments.


Can I use Rizla paper to fix sticky pads on my clarinet?

Yes. Using a thin Rizla paper can help. Start by removing the glue edge on the paper using scissors, then place the Rizla paper underneath the sticky key. As you hold down the key, slowly pull the paper out. This can help you get rid of any dirt built up beneath it. If you still notice the problem, wet the paper and then repeat the process.

Can I clean my clarinet using rubbing alcohol?

Yes. Though you can use it to clean the inside of this musical instrument, you should be careful not to get it on the outer part of the clarinet.

Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

Leave a Comment